The government of Burundi is looking to sell off a majority stake in national PTO Office National des Telecommunications (Onatel), TMT Finance reports citing unnamed sources as saying. It is understood that as part of any deal, the government is expecting the buyer to fully fund the capital needed to upgrade Onatel to a new, modern network, although it is keen to retain a minority shareholding in the PTO. One source familiar with the situation said that the process to find a buyer is already underway and that Onatel has appointed an advisor for the sale. ‘So far there has been some interest from at least one party. Discussions are ongoing,’ the unnamed source is quoted as saying.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the sale of a majority stake in Onatel was first discussed in 1999, but firm plans have failed to materialise. In May 2011 fresh speculation emerged that the PTO could soon be in the hands of private investors, and that Russian investment bank Renaissance Capital had been selected to complete the privatisation process launched in 2009. Supported since 2010 by the World Bank, the sale plans followed a call for tender launched in mid-2010. Despite the government’s optimism that it will conclude the sale by end-2011, it was seen as unlikely to trigger much investor enthusiasm given its small market size, the low levels of per capita income and the low population density outside the capital Bujumbura. Despite general industry apathy though, the government is seemingly trying again, with some suggesting that Onatel could be a target for regional operators seeking to gain a footing in Burundi.